By Maggie Buckley, Editor-in-Chief
After 15 years as President of Assumption University, Francesco Cesareo has decided to retire.
The news, delivered in a community-wide email on Tuesday, March 8, came as a shock to many, especially considering Cesareo just signed a five-year contract back in 2020.
Why, some wondered, would he depart prematurely?
Well, simply put, it is because Cesareo does not see his leaving as premature at all.
“Fifteen years is a very long presidency. You can only give so much and, once the gas tank is empty, there’s not much more you can do,” he said with a chuckle.
The last two years in particular, the President shared on a more serious note, were extremely taxing.
“The level of stress and the level of complete immersion into what needed to be done to navigate the institution through the pandemic was overwhelming.”
Cesareo cited 18-hour workdays, months without days off, and missing out on time with his family as a result of his role in administration.
When these things began to take a toll on his well-being, he began to consider stepping down.
“I looked at what these last few years were like and how exacusting they really were,” he said in a subdued tone. “I began to think several months ago whether or not this was the right time to retire.”
And he was not alone. Because the stress of his situation was a reality for many other presidents in higher education, Cesareo noted that he is in good company for seeking rest after years of difficulty.
Now, as Assumption University begins to break away from the confines of pandemic times, he thinks it is a perfect moment to part ways.
However, the primary catalyst in this decision was his family.
“When I came here, my kids were young,” he shared, noting that his three children, one an undergraduate student, another a law student, and the third a nurse practitioner and expectant mother, were only in 2nd, 5th, and 8th grade in 2007.
Cesareo understands that both he and his family had to make sacrifices during his tenure as president, but is now ready to change that.
“They had to share me with this institution in a way that most children and most families don’t have to do. At this stage in my life, and the age that I’m at, it’s time to give myself back to them while I’m still healthy enough to do so.”
He now looks forward to heading to Pennsylvania to be closer to his loved ones, but also finds comfort in knowing he positively impacted the Assumption community.
Indeed, the email sent by Board of Trustees chair Francis J. Bedard, highlighted just some of what he has achieved during his years here.
“Among President Cesareo’s notable accomplishments,” the email read, “are raising nearly $77 million for the University since July 2007; well-exceeding the $35 million goal of the Light the Way Capital Campaign; and transitioning the institution from a college to a university.”
Cesareo was also instrumental in the founding of the Rome campus, as he saw a need for students to venture outside their comfort zones and explore the world around them.
It is this student-centric model that has driven the president for the past 15 years, and this is something he hopes will endure long after he has gone.
“My hope for Assumption is that it will continue to build on the foundation that I’ve laid here for the university,” he said, sharing his desire for the institution to constantly improve while still remaining true to both its Catholic and liberal arts identities.
What is most important to Cesareo, though, is “that the experience of students both in the class and outside the class will be the guiding light for how the institution moves forward into the future.”